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New TUC guide to epilepsy at work

21 Apr 2015

The Trades Union Council (TUC) has worked in partnership with Epilepsy Action to release a guide to epilepsy in the workplace. The guide aims to inform union representatives in advising people with epilepsy at work

Today sees the launch of Epilepsy in the workplace – a TUC guide. The downloadable guide is the result of a collaboration between the TUC and Epilepsy Action. It is designed to help to improve the lives of people with epilepsy at work.

The TUC brings together trade unions in Britain, acting on behalf of working people. It does lots of lobbying and campaigning to make sure that those working people are treated fairly in their jobs. In this case, the TUC is trying to do this for people with epilepsy.

By law, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to a job or a workplace to accommodate a disability such as epilepsy. The new guide offers important information to union representatives so that they can advise people with epilepsy and their employers.

Lots of people with different jobsThe guide suggests some reasonable adjustments for a person with epilepsy in the workplace, for instance. It also offers general epilepsy information and dispels common myths surrounding the condition.

Epilepsy in the workplace – a TUC guide also includes lots of information that may be useful to employers. This includes information about performing risk assessments and examples of good practice and communication, and examples of workplace bullying.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “I am delighted that the TUC has worked with Epilepsy Action to produce this new guide to help trade unions support members with epilepsy.

“Despite legal protection, workers with epilepsy still encounter ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Trade unions challenge all such attitudes and behaviour and this guide will help them to do so from a position of understanding and strength.”

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Comments: read the 4 comments or add yours

Comments

I have bee dismissed at work even though I am medicated and seizure free for 5 years. They say I cannot climb ladders or work with electricity even tough all electricity is disconnected prior to working on the cables. There are always more than one of us on the jobs and it is rare that I have to climb.
Can you please advise what the legislation says in relation to this?

Can you advise?

Submitted by Sheila on

Dear Sheila
I’m sorry to hear this. Most jobs, are possible for people with epilepsy. It all depends on your seizure type, seizure frequency and maybe some reasonable adjustments at work.

As you are five years seizure free there shouldn’t be any reason why you cannot use ladders – unless there is any other medical reason to make this dangerous. If there is no other reason your employer is discriminating against you.

Because of your epilepsy you are covered by the Equality Laws (Equality Act in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland). This means your employer must not discriminate against you unless they can justify this. They do have to take health and safety into account and should do a risk assessment. But they should weigh up all the facts about your epilepsy very carefully. For example, if you haven’t had a seizure for a long time, and are on medication, how likely is it that you will have another one? In this kind of situation, the employer may use the driving regulations as a guide. These ask for 12 months’ seizure freedom.

You may wish to discuss this with your employer. If you belong to a union, you may want to contact them for help. There are also organisations that specialise in employment rights and discrimination that may be able to help.

Finally, you can always talk to our helpline team. You can either email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or phone the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.

Regards
Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

My son has had epilepsy since he was 18 months old, he is now 34 years old. His condition is controlled by medication , although he is prone to having "abscences" & has worked for his employer on 27 hours for approx 12/13 years. Recently he has had a change in the level of "activity" he has been experiencing & has been sent home from work without pay. Also due to the increased activity he no longer feels safe working upstairs at his place of work. The owner of the business is, sadly not very approachable & as a result my son told his consultant at the hospital, who wrote a letter advising that in his opinion it was unsafe for my son to work upstairs alone & the response from my sons employer was that a) he couldn't afford to pay somebody to "babysit" him upstairs b) that he had had reports from my sons co workers that they didn't want the responsibility of "caring" for him should he have any "abscence" or seizure activity c) that there was insufficient work that he was capable of doing (my son is very able & capable at his job) so he gave him a choice to either find alternative employment or accept a reduced working week from 27 hours to 11hours (pay adjusted accordingly) .This action has not only caused financial hardship but considerable stress to my son (and in my opinion has also caused an increase in the seizure activity experienced by my son) since the change in hours has been implemented. Can you please advise if the employer has breached any employment laws & if there are any employers that will employ people with epilepsy in a warehouse environment as he is an honest, reliable, hard worker & has only ever had this job since leaving full time education. Any advice or information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Submitted by Alice on

Dear Alice

Thank you for your email.

Its sounds like your son is in a very distressing and upsetting situation with his employer.

As your son has epilepsy he is likely to be covered by the Equality Laws (Equality Act in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland). This means his employer must do their best to make sure that he is not put at a disadvantage because of his epilepsy or discriminate against, unless they can justify this.

His employer has to consider making reasonable adjustments to help him to remain in work. For example, could they move his workstation so he isn’t lone working, could he use a seizure alarms, or could his job role be changed? These are some options for making reasonable adjustments.

As with all staff who have a long term medical condition that may affect them at work, there should be a care plan in place. This can include what happens when he has a seizure and how people can help him during and afterwards. The help may come from the first aider until he is either alright to return to work or goes home.

If his employer says they can’t make any reasonable adjustments, they must be able to fully explain and justify their decision. Regrettably there will be times when reasonable adjustments will not work and an employer could justify terminating their employee’s employment. If your son’s employer says they can’t do reasonable adjustments and your son doesn’t think they are being reasonable, please contact the Equality Advisory Support Service. The Equality Advisory Support Service can offer advice and support if someone feels they’ve been discriminated against because of their epilepsy.

If your son does have to look for other work, he needs to make an appointment with the work coach at your local Jobcentre. They can help your son find a job or gain new skills and tell him about disability-friendly employers in his area.

They can also refer him to a specialist work psychologist, if appropriate, or carry out an ‘employment assessment’, asking him about:

  • His skills and experience
  • what kind of roles he’d be interested in

To see if your son could get benefits to help whilst he is working reduced hours, you could contact Turn2us. They provides a free online benefits calculator to help people find out what financial help they are entitled to.

As your son is still having seizures, it’s important that he is being seen by an epilepsy specialist so they can review his treatment. If he has tried various types of epilepsy medicines, it may be the specialist could look into other treatment options for him.

If he is not under a specialist, he will need to ask his family doctor to refer him. This would usually be to a neurologist. The ideal would be to someone with a specialist interest in epilepsy, as there are many different neurological conditions, and neurologists tend to specialise in different ones.

I hope all goes well. If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact our helpline team directly. You can either email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or phone the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.

Regards

Diane

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Todd at Epileps... on

Question about your epilepsy?

Use our email helpline service -- your question will be sent directly to our trained helpline advisors who will reply to you. If you post a question about your epilepsy as a comment on a page, it may not be replied to so please use the email helpline service.

Want to talk to other people with epilepsy?

Take a look at forum4e our online community for people with epilepsy. Anyone with epilepsy over the age of 16 can join, from anywhere in the world.

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